Diesel History For Sale: 1979 Oldsmobile 98 Coupe, 54K Miles

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Fans of diesel-engined cars really, really love their vehicles, and we have a lot of them on this site.

So we're hoping that some Southern California diesel car fanatic will step up to the plate and buy this piece of diesel history.

Found through the always entertaining Bring A Trailer site, this Craigslist find is a gigantic, all-American diesel from 34 years ago.

Better yet, it's an Oldsmobile. And a coupe. And it has tufted velour upholstery.

Combine that with its 5.7-liter diesel V-8 engine, and you have what might be a very rare vehicle indeed.

Not necessarily rare in the coveted Ferrari 250 GTO vein.

More like rare in the same way an AMC Pacer, or a Delorean, or a Mazda RX-4 is--an unusual car that tried to advance the state of the art, but ended up as just a footnote to automotive history.

Oldsmobile (and other GM divisions) offered diesel engines from 1978 through 1985, and their unreliability was legend.

It's been said that GM's diesels did more to set back the adoption of diesel engines in the U.S. than anything else.

This particular car is a 1979 OIdsmobile Ninety-Eight coupe, with a reported 54,000 miles on it.

The pale yellow coupe has no vinyl roof, though the tufted velour upholstery says volumes about its era.

It even has the original "diesel" stand-up hood ornament, not to mention period California blue-and-gold license plates.

The seller notes, among other delights, that it "runs and drives great," has good working air conditioning,

1979 Oldsmobile 98 Diesel, San Diego, offered on Craigslist, Feb 2013

1979 Oldsmobile 98 Diesel, San Diego, offered on Craigslist, Feb 2013

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The price for all this wonderfulness? A mere $2,300 or best offer.

We do note that of the 180-plus comments on the Bring A Trailer story, the majority are very, very negative about these cars' durability.

The general tenor seems to be amazement that one of these cars has lasted this long and still apparently runs.

But, really, diesel fans ... doesn't this have to be the most diesel car you can get for the least money?

We hope someone will snap this one up. And then we hope that person will let us know what it's like.

The phone number of the seller in San Diego, California, is 619 302-6836.

The next move is yours.


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Comments (14)
  1. I have 1982 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham with same 5.7L Diesel engine. It loves diesel... and oil, but my car has some miles also on it. Those 5.7L diesels are not the best engines but if you take good care of it, it´s last like every other engine.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, this was a gasoline engine converted to diesel. Not the best idea. (Although it seemed to be the way the GM of that era approached potential new market segments - half-assed.)

  3. "If I'm not mistaken, this was a gasoline engine converted to diesel."

    Correct, which is why it broke and it broke often. GM at the time did not have the in-house expertise and believed that all they needed to do was to make adjustments, but they did not account for additional material and structural design required for a diesel engine.

    The issues were not worked out until well into the '80's of the last century. The last generation of this engine has been reported to be reliable, but it was too little, too late.

  4. I believe they took the engine block from a gasoline engine and built a diesel engine around it. Geniuses...the engineers should have known better, but the bean counters ruled back then (and still do).

  5. A more detailed article:

    Wasn't the block after all.

  6. Now THAT is what one could call EPIC FAIL.

  7. You are mistaken, this is not a gas engine converted, it was an all new design only it was engineered to fit on the same assembly lines as the gas motors to save money on machining and not having to add new equipment to make these engines, they where great engines , it was owner neglect and piss poor dealer training along with a poor fuel supply around the country in the late 70's and 80's that had huge amounts of water in the fuel, along with these cars not having a water seperator installed from the factory,

  8. Just curious is that 5,416.9 or 54,169 miles ? Some cars have a tenth segment that is white as shown in the picture.

  9. Yes, it looks like it has 105 416 miles on it, or 205 416 miles. Carfax vehicle history report may help...

  10. Our sister in law's family bought the 4 door new and the engine was replaced twice under warrantee.I believe the engine was built by Fiat I think and it sputtered for a minute after turning off.

  11. I owned a 79 or 80 Delta 88 that broke a crack shaft but as I recall they replace it to run again. The car was big and comfortable

  12. there was a small amount of cranks made from a bad batch of metal, but mostly it was bad fuel (diesel and water don't work well together) and a poor dealer service training that lead to bad rumors, Nothing on these engines fit on a gas engine.

  13. "So we're hoping that some Southern California diesel car fanatic will step up to the plate and buy this piece of diesel history."

    Sorry, but you (or anyone else for that matter) do not want this vehicle as configured. GM did not fix the issues with the engine until 1988, by which time the damage was already done, and it was too late to save the diesel Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs.

    The first thing this car would require is an engine swap.

    We the diesel owners love our diesel cars because they are virtually indestructible and very simple, not because they run on diesel fuel.

  14. by 81 they had fixed 90% of the problems, mostly it was owner neglect and driving practices that cause most of the problems, You can't drive it balls to the wall like a gas engine.

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